"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jan 14, 2011

Pre-production for a snuff film in Venezuela

I don't have much of an opinion about Hugo Chavez, unlike almost everyone else on the planet, it seems. He's a strong man, so that's a mark in the con box. He's also got some serious cojones, and he's got no problem sticking his finger in Uncle and Corporate's eyes. Balance the con with a pro.

Unlike me, a couple of fellows from the Cato Institute, using the liberal fashion magazine Huffington Post of all the possible venues, have themselves a bunch of worries about El Presidente Chavez.

Curiously familiar worries.

I mean, really, really familiar worries. Let's just call them, I dunno, typical. Pro forma. Rote. Pre-scripted, even.

These guys [neoliberals and market prophets, in general] do not update their game plan. Find a country with a bunch of stuff the honchos want. Spend years demonizing the strong man or revolutionary junta which has come to power either with US assistance, or by opposing the US effectively enough to earn some domestic loyalty. Try to assassinate the leaders, or stage a coup. Send the IMF and the World Bank's economists in to pronounce the death of the local economy. Add in some SAPs, some commodities manipulation and dire warnings to recalcitrant investors. Issue ultimatums. Threaten military power if the local capital isn't freed up to escape to London, Berlin and New York. Warn off the wily Chinese and the maskirovka happy Russians. Scare up a story for the idiot news consumers who still have enough self-hatred to vote.

Yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, following the script, Senior Cato Fellow Doug Bandow, and Project Coordinator for Latin America, Jose Hidalgo, take it away:

"Venezuela's close relationship with Iran and plans to build nuclear facilities with Russian help are raising fears in Washington of another nuclear crisis. The incoming Republican House majority may place increased pressure on the Obama administration to confront Caracas.

Washington need not panic. A 'Chávez bomb" is but a distant possibility and much will happen in Venezuela in the meantime. The U.S. should work with other interested states to discourage Caracas from pursuing nuclear weapons."

Venezuela does not have close relationship with Iran. That's a lie. A fiction, told by the sycophants and agents of power, to confuse the issue, to justify their own worldviews. Hugo Chavez has a working relationship with the Iranian leadership, especially presidential gadfly, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A relationship Chavez cultivated because the US and its European toadies have spent a decade and a half  attempting to isolate him, to overthrow his rather popular government, to take the oil and mineral resources, the profits from which he cagily redistributes as social services and other popular benefits, to end the Constitutional land reforms upon which the Venezuelan people put their imprimatur, and to stop up one of the primary sources of the ongoing South American Bolivarization.

Russia is not helping Venezuela obtain nuclear weapons. The Russian leadership is offering the Venezuelan government aid in building nuclear power plants. Not "facilities," which is one of those vasty vague terms that obscures more than it reveals, implying in its usage nefarious projects and evil means. The Russian state, if its leadership wanted to, could just give the Chavez government nuclear weapons. Or nuclear technology. Or seed uranium. Or open up the avenues to the same, on the black and grey markets. And the US security state could do fuck all about it. It's really that simple. The US government is not going to war with the Russia state, because it cannot go to war with the Russian state. It cannot afford to. It has neither the manpower nor the man hours to sustain conflict across the whole of the Asian continent. Medvedev and Putin surely understand this. They could, if they chose to, arm Chavez, set up missile batteries, build a dozen new military bases, arm anti-government ejercitos in neighboring Colombia to further destabilize that US protectorate, and go home with favorable trade deals. The US bureaucratic and diplomatic corps would have a series of snits and fits, and then delegate the task of accommodating to the shift in geopolitical power.

Barack Obama would lose the election in 2012, and the incoming Republican would make angry noises and then look for a country full of brown people, one without a Russian or Chinese nuclear umbrella, to bomb.

Anyway, continuing:

"...Venezuela suffers from severe energy shortages -- primarily due to the Chávez government's mismanagement -- there's reason to doubt Chávez's claim that his nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes. For one -- Chávez's arms purchases far outstrip his nation's security needs. Over the last decade Caracas has purchased fighters, attack helicopters, antiaircraft missiles, and 100,000 assault rifles. Yet Venezuela has been at peace since 1823 and faces no external threats.

Yet even if Venezuela chooses to pursue nuclear weapons, it's far from certain that Caracas will succeed. The difficult process requires time, money, technology, and science. Developing nuclear weapons is even harder in the face of international opposition. Moreover, creating weapons of deliverable size poses another significant challenge..." 

That shit starts off with a fairly bold lie. Chavez has not "mismanaged" the Venezuelan energy network. Hugo Chavez is president of a country which produces 70% of its electricity by way of hydroelectric power. That's right. The state of Venezuela, which controls substantial reserves of natural gas and crude oil, produces the bulk, the overwhelming majority, of its domestic electricity output using water:

"...Chavez declared a national emergency in February as water levels in reservoirs for hydroelectric dams dropped to critical levels. The rainy season in Venezuela doesn't start till May, leaving more than 30 percent of the country at risk of lingering blackouts.

Venezuela gets more than 70 percent of its energy from hydroelectric power. Economists, the Financial Times reports, are expecting the energy crisis to spill over to the national economy, which saw a 3.3 percent drop in gross domestic product in 2009.

The weather pattern El Nino was blamed for a 2009 drought, though underfunding for the electrical grid is complicating matters during the current energy crisis..."

And Venezuela is in the midst of a long drought, which couldn't possibly have anything to do with planned construction of nuclear power plants. So, unless Hugo Chavez is personally responsible for the changing climate, and weather patterns, the Senior Fellow and the Project Coordinator just tried to sell a doozy to the fashion liberals who read the Huffington Post.

But, let's move on. Because the authors don't stop with that lie. They leap - and I mean frightened frog jumping as hard and fast as it can away from the oncoming crane, sort of leap - from Chavez's mismanagement to "well, he must want nukes." And why? Because he has a higher level of military equipment acquisition than they think he should have. His purchases, according to the freemarketeers of the Cato Institute, "outstrip his nation's security needs."

Says who? The authors don't say. They can't say. If they explain any further, it becomes apparent that they're lying. And then the readers might have to ask, or muse, or wonder, "Why?" For whom, this lie? Towards what ends? What for?

Why would Hugo Chavez buy military equipment which "outstrips his nation's security needs"? The authors have already told their readers that Venezuela faces no "external threats." None. Not a one.

Venezuela, they say, has been at peace for one hundred eighty-seven years. Since 1823.

And by peace, they mean:

"The failed coup in Venezuela was closely tied to senior officials in the US government, The Observer has established. They have long histories in the 'dirty wars' of the 1980s, and links to death squads working in Central America at that time. 

Washington's involvement in the turbulent events that briefly removed left-wing leader Hugo Chavez from power last weekend resurrects fears about US ambitions in the hemisphere. 

It also also deepens doubts about policy in the region being made by appointees to the Bush administration, all of whom owe their careers to serving in the dirty wars under President Reagan. 

One of them, Elliot Abrams, who gave a nod to the attempted Venezuelan coup, has a conviction for misleading Congress over the infamous Iran-Contra affair. 

The Bush administration has tried to distance itself from the coup. It immediately endorsed the new government under businessman Pedro Carmona. But the coup was sent dramatically into reverse after 48 hours. 

Now officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources, talking to The Observer, assert that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success. 

The visits by Venezuelans plotting a coup, including Carmona himself, began, say sources, 'several months ago', and continued until weeks before the putsch last weekend. The visitors were received at the White House by the man President George Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Otto Reich. 

Reich is a right-wing Cuban-American who, under Reagan, ran the Office for Public Diplomacy. It reported in theory to the State Department, but Reich was shown by congressional investigations to report directly to Reagan's National Security Aide, Colonel Oliver North, in the White House..."

So, why again would the Chavez government buy arms which exceed "his nation's security needs"?

Could it be that the US national security state has been attempting to destabilize the Bolivarian government for a decade now? Could it be because Chavez believes - and not without cause, that Venezuela is next on the invasion list? -

"...They talk excitedly about plans to repair crumbling walls, clear sewage and help local enterprises. It is the business of civic leaders everywhere - yet this gathering is also the vanguard of Leftist president Hugo Chávez's 21st-century 'socialist revolution'.

By the time they have been trained and armed, they will also be ready to defend Venezuela against outside interference, including the US invasion that Mr Chávez says he expects.

'El Comandante (Mr Chávez) told us to create communal groups and to tackle problems ourselves,' said Lenny Guerrero, 35, to nods of assent from others in the room. 'Some government officials came here to help us create the groups. Power will now rest with the people.'

On Mr Chávez's order, 17,000 communal councils have now been set up across the country, and an estimated £1 billion earmarked to fund them. As the official slogan, 'Build power from below', proclaims, their stated purpose is to promote grass-roots democracy and hand power directly to the people - in particular the urban poor who make up the bulk of his most fervent supporters.

But as well as grappling with the grim conditions in slums such as Catia, members of these voluntary groups will constitute a nationwide militia, schooled in Cuban-style tactics for both guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency."

Perhaps what frightens the freemarketeers and agents of state is not so much that Hugo Chavez has bought a lot weapons, made trade and energy deals with the Russians, takes seriously enough the US attempts to destabilize Venezuela and to restore it to its colonial heyday - but that he has kept his word. That he has armed the poor. Not only with guns, but with self-government. With control of their own neighborhoods. That the land reform enshrined in the Venezuelan constitution has teeth, and has taken hold, because the poor of Venezuela have taken it for themselves, and have a government which not only encourages it, but trusts them with arms.

If I were a prophet of the market, that would probably scare me enough to tell lies.

The Cato authors continue,

"...Despite Chávez's pretensions of global leadership, his corruption-ridden and inept regime may be the biggest obstacle to a Venezuelan nuclear bomb. Worst is his gross economic mismanagement despite the government's receipt of billions in oil revenues."

Hugo Chavez does not have pretensions to global leadership. He no doubt has his share of vanity and ego. But he has never invaded Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or bombed Yemen. Or murdered children in Pakistan. Or overthrown the populist governments of Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua. He hasn't even invaded Colombia, and those bastards have given him plenty of cause. Hugo Chavez, in short, is not George Bush or Barack Obama. He is not the Latin American reincarnation of the last fifteen US presidents.

You're not supposed to know that, though. Instead, the authors want you to believe that,

"...The country's infrastructure is crumbling. Last April an offshore drilling rig rented by PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, sank. The deal involved a questionable rental contract with former PDVSA executives and the accident was never properly investigated. Earlier this year power blackouts caused by a series of explosions at electrical plants and inadequate maintenance at the Guri hydro-electrical dam forced the government to impose electricity rationing..."

 To understand exactly what they're saying, here, let's turn to another neoliberal state propaganda organ (VOA), which spells out its objections in plainer language:

"...With the oil industry under state control, Mr. Chavez bears responsibility for how it is run. At a first glance, the numbers do not look encouraging. Experts say production has dropped about a third since he came to office, robbing the country of the full financial benefit that could have accrued in 2008, when global oil prices peaked around $140 a barrel.

Venezuelan oil analyst Juan Carlos Sosa says the government has diverted funds from oil infrastructure in order to sustain ever-more-expensive socialist initiatives. 'To get back to the 1998 level of production, Venezuela would need to invest $10-$12 billion a year for the next 10 years to upgrade its petroleum operations.  This is not being done, and so the situation is critical,' he said...

And, he notes, a significant portion of Venezuela's dwindling oil production is donated to Cuba and other leftist-led countries."

"...Cuba receives more than 100,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day without paying anything.  Instead, Cuba provides medical services, sports training, and other assistance.  It is an ideological arrangement.  But PDVSA suffers, because it could be selling that oil to the United States for hard currency,' Sosa said.


"...New geological surveys show Venezuela's oil reserves dwarfing those of Saudi Arabia. But having oil is one thing; maintaining a state-owned oil industry and using revenue wisely are another, says Venezuelan oil analyst Juan Carlos Sosa. 

'Since almost all the oil revenue PDVSA receives are used for non-petroleum purposes, PDVSA cannot maintain the wells and keep them running. It does not have the funds, so it has to close the wells. And since foreign companies are given no incentive to invest in oil operations, production is paralyzed,' he said.

Venezuela's oil production has plummeted by a third under Chavez, according to Sosa.

He blames PDVSA's social programs that are so popular among the poor. 'Instead of staying on top of oil production and international sales, PDVSA's president has to worry about a thousand other things. And nothing is done well,' he said.

Hugo Chavez has the audacity to use oil revenues for social programs. The audacity to...not sell it for hard US currency. That's his "crumbling infrastructure." The Chavez government is not investing in efficiency, in increased productivity. In profit for foreign extraction firms. It is, instead, building health clinics, hospitals, railroads, and a water distribution network."

And this pisses off the market prophets, doesn't it?

"...Venezuela's transportation infrastructure is literally falling apart. The government agency that manages the country's food supply let 120,000 tons of imported food rot in port while its own supermarkets suffered shortages of basic staples. Chávez's anti-business policies discourage private investment..."

I cannot find any reference to this rotted food which isn't a link back to the Cato article, or another piece of propaganda, such as this Economist piece. Let's assume it's true. Let's assume that food rotted on a dock in Venezuela. That this is somehow unique in the history of food distribution. That is has absolutely no analogs or parallels anywhere else, ever.

The point, for the Cato authors isn't that food rotted, or that people went hungry. It's that Chavez discourages "private investment." The so-called rotten food? The allegedly hungry people? That doesn't matter. What matters to them is that money was not made off of the provision of food to poor people.


Moving on,

"...Although Caracas is a major oil supplier, it cannot easily afford an expensive nuclear program. With the days of skyrocketing oil prices over, at least in the foreseeable future, the government faces serious financial difficulties.

For example, Chávez's regime owes Colombian businesses approximately $500 million for past exports. PDVSA has delayed payments to its contractors. After Chávez's allies lost the legislative elections in October, his government launched an expropriation spree but only 9 percent of the confiscated industries have been paid for.

Moreover, Chávez is not certain to retain power in the face of a contracting economy, staggering crime rate, unbridled corruption and an increasingly united opposition, Even if he wins reelection in 2012, Chávez likely will find it more difficult to achieve his international ambitions..."

Let me sum that up: Bolivarian socialism doesn't work, see. Because foreign and domestic capitalist enterprises don't make money. The socialists owe money to the capitalists. Therefore, socialism is Fail.

Heh. Boy, do they miss the point, eh?

Let's get to it already, will ya, Cato?

"...Obviously, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of Venezuela becoming a nuclear power, but it is equally mistaken to speak of 'an over-the-horizon Cuban Missile Crisis,' in the words of the Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes. Venezuela is nowhere close to or certain of becoming a threat to the U.S. Thus, the Obama administration should develop a long-term strategy to head off any 'Chávez bomb.'

The U.S. should maintain a low profile in Venezuelan affairs. The chief issue in the upcoming election should be Chávez's disastrous record. The less attention received by U.S. officials and policy, the less blame Chávez can off-load on Washington, and the less he can claim that America poses a threat.

At the same time, American individuals and groups should support Venezuelan advocates of liberty. The strongest opposition to Chávez comes from grassroots activists committed to a free society.

The U.S. also should engage Moscow. The Obama administration should be prepared to make concessions on matters of NATO expansion and missile defense as part of a larger political understanding, which would limit or end Russia's military relationship and nuclear plans with Caracas.

Washington should encourage Venezuela's neighbors and United Nations Security Council members to press Caracas, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Particularly important are the roles of Brazil and Argentina, which have had nuclear ambitions in the past.

No one, other than, presumably, Hugo Chávez, wants Venezuela to build nuclear weapons. With the threat still distant, patience is a virtue. The U.S. should assemble a diplomatic coalition to constrain any nuclear ambitions in Caracas..."

Phew. Finally done with it. All that mouthbreathing to deliver the same old script.

I mean, literally, the same fucking storyline. Hell, it worked for Iraq, so...

...let's assume they might get away with it:

For what it's worth, a translation: Let's not drop bombs on Venezuela until we have to. There are plenty of middle and upper class allies in the suburbs and posh neighborhoods of Caracas. Let's get them all grassrootsy. And by grass roots, we mean, y'know - another coup. That would play better to the press. The American Moron would eat that shit up, but we're pretty sure he doesn't have any patience for a fourth front in the global war on poor and brown people who live atop resources that they should never have had the gall to be born above. That would also allow the US to keep a "low profile." Hell, it just worked in Guatemala, that old stomping ground of United Fruit, didn't it? So, patience, fellow neoliberals and warhawks. We have time. And we can always ante up the fear over a "Chavez Bomb" if we have to. Seriously. We just made that case for you. Like, y'know, our betters did in the run up to Iraq...

Anyway, we know that pattern. We know their habits.

We've been warned...


Tao Dao Man said...

For what it's worth.


Be sure to hit the translate button. :-)

Justin said...

That tacked on ending linking Chavez to nuclear weapons was so dreadfully forced. The script is the same every time.

I like ideological tracts like these because they always contain revealing pieces of a very rigid world-view. Such as,
Cuba receives more than 100,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day without paying anything. Instead, Cuba provides medical services, sports training, and other assistance. It is an ideological arrangement. But PDVSA suffers, because it could be selling that oil to the United States for hard currency,' Sosa said."Ideological arrangement... getting something for free but returning other services..." Sounds to me like a simple barter system. Note the disgust and revulsion at the idea that an exchange economy could have an alternative medium to money, the very idea is nefarious. And also note the notion that a bartering system is described as ideological, implying that the American dollar system is completely without ideology, as all immutable laws of nature are.

Richard said...

The Huffington Post, the Guardian and the Nation (albeit in toned down style) put out this stuff knowingly. No one sells them on anything. When it comes to Venezuela and Chavez, the US media, from left to right, speaks as one. Like you, I have some reservations about Chavez's political methods at times, but, on balance, there is no question that Venezuela is a more egalitarian, politically participatory place than before he took power. Of course, none of these articles ever compare the Venezuela of Chavez with the Venezuela of neoliberal elite impugnity that prevailed previously. For an obvious illustration of how hypocritical this is, just look over towards Tunisia, lead by one of the most despotic people on the planent, Ben Ali, and the US says nothing, or expresses concern about the "violence", because Tunisia is one of the most steadfast allies in the "war on terror". If Chavez adopted neoliberal policies and participated in the "war on terror", he could sell babies into slavery, and we'd be fine with it.

Will Shetterly said...

What I admire about Chavez is he always has international observers at his elections so no one can say without blatantly lying that they're rigged. This is why the US financed one coup and would love another try--so long as democracy works, Chavez stays in power.

Randal Graves said...

Aw jeez, Hugo's gunning for nukes? Better stock up on duct tape, cans of cream of chicken and gold.

It's like Mad Libs with these jokers.

Will Shetterly said...

Randal, like it or not, having nukes is the way the world decides you're a major player. The US made that rule.

Richard said...

Chavez doesn't want to be another Allende, so, of course, in the American political discourse, that gets translated as being an existential threat to the US.


Who seizes people outside of his countries boundaries and subjects them to indefinite detention and torture?

Who uses his military to launch airstrikes on villagers in other countries?

Who uses his country's military and economic clout to economically isolate other countries?

Oh, it's Barack Obama, not Chavez.

But you just keep on being afraid of Hugo?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Why would Hugo Chavez buy military equipment which "outstrips his nation's security needs"?

Yeah, that's stealing the U.S.' schtick!

Jack Crow said...

For these comments alone, I'm glad I wrote this one. Thanks you, each, for the further avenues for research and study.

TWS said...

Thank you so much for this excellent post! I hugely appreciate your patient deconstruction of the empire's web of propaganda and threats against one of the precious few positive, egalitarian developments in world politics.

Randal Graves said...

will, here, the jokers = the regurgitating American spin doctors. I guess my comment really wasn't clear. Heh.

David K Wayne said...

This is an excellent post. It's getting pretty appalling how they report Chavez in the UK too - increasingly hostile, which suggests a future agenda.

But the hypocrisy of it is what makes my fucking blood boil:, 'biased, restricted media', 'playing power-games with oil', 'cynical alliances to stay in power', 'cynical attempts to gain the support of the poor'. Always a 'cynical' power play with Chavez - not 'sensible' or 'pragmatic' like our Great and Good fuckers.

And my favourite: 'economic mismanagement', as though he should have flushed several trillion down the the toilet to keep a gang of gamblers happy, then turn around and the tell the poor that its their fucking fault!

Tao Dao Man said...

The stench of sulfur never left.:-)
The presidents may change, but the Western agenda stays the same.

America is now a Hamburger Helper Republic.
They can no longer dictate to the world.
The economic hit men have visited Venezuela many times.
I imagine there will be another "color revolution" sponsored by the West in Venezuela.

Peter Ward said...

The notion that a bartering system is described as ideological, implying that the American dollar system is completely without ideology, as all immutable laws of nature are.

Indeed. Ideology is something only my enemies have, for I am possessed with the sight of God.

dah_sab said...

The most insidious part of this drivel is the always-implied notion that whatever activity it is, if it's not done for profit then it's clearly problematic. Energy companies must always be run efficiently, food must never rot, etc. Maybe some people are fine with a little inefficiency, and don't really give a shit, so long as more stuff gets shared.

In some senses, these Cato people aren't necessarily just being assholes. They truly don't understand why anyone would run a country like that. Yes, they think Chavez is evil, but they are also thoroughly puzzled as to why he "gets away" with it. You can almost feel their heads exploding at the does-not-compute-ness of it all. Tthey so wish he would fail because what he's doing just isn't right, man.

I can't remember how I found my way to your blog, but I'm enjoying it. Keep up the good work!

Jack Crow said...


I think you're right, in that the Cato glibertarians cannot really imagine the moral alternative to their own worldview.

And thank you,


Anonymous said...

Bandow's perspective for at least 20 years has been the putz-ish Country Club Libertarian niche, made acceptable to the more NPR-leaning folks with his radical (cough cough) beard and his stance on pot legalization. He's been polishing the same idea for decades: it's not Robber Baron Capitalism that's bad, it's the damned fed govt's regulation of the otherwise noble enterprise known as Capitalism that ruins things and makes for inequity.


Bandow would be bound to hate Chavez because Chavez represents government stepping in to stop robber baron profiteering.

Back in the 90s I used to write some scathing hate letters to the Washington Times in response to Bandow's "economic" positions. This reminds me of those days and how he used to wind me up.